Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Writing Amid Chaos

The crazy busyness of my life right now has inspired this week's writing post: How do you write when you have a lot of distractions? When life is going according to plan and you don't have a lot going on, it's a lot easier to fit in writing time. But what about when life is a little crazier? There are times when you're sick, when you have sick family members, when your day job is requiring long hours or travel, when you have a book being released and have to do promo work, when you're moving, or, like I am now, you're getting a house ready to sell and doing a lot of cleaning, organizing, and repairing. Can you still fit in some writing time? Maybe, but it takes some strategy.

One thing to try is scheduling your other obligations and your writing -- you'll paint the bedroom from this time to this time, and then at this time you'll do an hour of writing. You need to be realistic here about what you can really accomplish and which projects are do-or-die. If you're on deadline with a book, then that might have to be the priority, and you schedule other stuff around that. If you absolutely have to finish the work project, then you may have to reschedule the writing accordingly. I do find that setting a writing appointment makes it easier to make myself fit a bit of writing into the day because otherwise all those little tasks will expand to fill the available time.

Once you've set aside time to write, you may need to do something that helps you change gears. Otherwise, even though you're sitting down with your pen or your computer, your brain will be off mentally comparing paint colors. It may help to find a sensory trigger -- a visual, scent, or sound that takes you immediately into the world of your book. It may be a picture that reminds you of your setting or characters, a scented candle that evokes the mood of the story, or a piece of music that brings the story to life in your head. You may have to work to establish these triggers. It will take a few times of looking at, smelling, or listening to these things as you get down to work before you start associating them with your writing. It can also help to establish habits or rituals that separate your writing from the other things going on in your life. You may want to change clothes, move to a new location, make a pot of tea, meditate for a moment, light a candle, play some music, etc., to signal to yourself that you're in writing mode.

Of course, during some really trying times, switching gears entirely isn't an option. That's when you need to give yourself permission to lighten up -- unless you're on a deadline, and even then if you have something really serious happening, you should talk to your editor and see if you can work something out. It's better to do that as soon as you know there might be a problem than on your deadline date when your book is only halfway done. I've heard that over and over again from editors, that they'd rather you let them know that you've had some life crisis and may need more time well ahead of your deadline. If you don't have a deadline, then you can lower your expectations while you're in crisis mode. You may only manage to write a page or a paragraph, or you may just get some ideas jotted down. I'm repainting my house this week and going to a convention this weekend, and I realized that trying to write wasn't working, so I outlined some ideas and I'm listening to music that reminds me of the book while I work. I'm hoping that means next week I can sit down and write with some pent-up ideas and end up being more productive than if I forced myself to squeeze in work this week.

This only works, though, if you have a good sense of the stop date for your crisis. It can be dangerous to your productivity to let it extend indefinitely. If you know that your project will end two weeks from now and then you'll get your life back, it's okay to just put your writing aside until you can breathe. If you do that for an ongoing difficulty, it's too easy to get into the habit of not writing. There's always going to be something going on in your life to get in the way of writing and it will become an excuse.

No comments: